When it comes to food, the concept of “health” has become an increasingly fraught one; for proof, all you need to do is look at the many eating plans that market themselves as revolutionary new ways of making you feel good about yourself, when really, they’re just…diets, which have been shown to be ineffective as a long-term means of keeping off weight. That’s why cook, writer and all-around food expert Julia Turshen’s new cookbook Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food feels so revolutionary; along with powerful essays, childhood memories, and love letters to her wife Grace, Turshen’s book contains recipes that prioritize taste and accessibility, not weight loss.
In a recent excerpt from the book published by Bon Appetit, Turshen described her long-running quest to leave diet culture behind and feel good in her body, writing, “For as long as I’ve always loved food, I’ve also been as conﬂicted about consuming it.” (Incidentally, Turshen’s story inspired me to quit dieting after a lifelong battle with disordered eating, something I divulged during our call in a shameless moment of TMI that Turshen was, nonetheless, extremely gracious about.) Below, find a conversation with Turshen about Simply Julia, COVID-19, food, queerness, body peace and much more:
The experience of reading Simply Julia feels so organic, as though you just jotted things down as you thought of them, but obviously so much work went into it; about how long were you working on the book in total?
It’s been two years between when I started on it and talking about it now. I basically turned in the first draft in February 2020, so that means I had not only written all the recipes, but they had all been tested and I had written all the intros. What was different for me with this book, as opposed to previous books, is that my wife was a big part of the recipe testing. My book schedule kind of coincided with her closing her business, so she dove into that process with me, which was actually really amazing and helped me to be a better teacher in this book than I’ve been before. I was planning to shoot all the photos in March 2020—you know, a team of people turning my house into Camp Cookbook for a week, which is what I’ve done on my previous books and has been a great experience. That plan went out the window [with COVID-19], but then I remembered I had the phone number for this amazing woman Melina Hammer, who lives ten minutes from me. She’s a super-talented food photographer and stylist, so I reached out to her and was like, “Maybe we could figure out a safe way to do this, if you’re interested and available.” We basically shot the entire book over the course of a month—just the two of us, no other assistance, although we both have very supportive spouses who were very helpful. And we were never in the same room.